John Byrne went to Belfast Art College before attending the Slade School, London (1984-86). He works in multi-media and performance with a background in public art.
He developed a practice through performance, culminating with his Border Interpretative Centre (2000), a short lived visitor centre and gift shop on the main Dublin-Belfast Road. His video Would you die for Ireland (2002) initially presented in Kilmainham Gaol, involved him putting the emotive question to passers-by on the streets of Dublin, Cork and Belfast. Those confronted included members of the Defence Forces, Gardaí, The Orange Order and the then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. He has completed a number of high profile projects including, Dublin’s Last Supper, a large, permanent photo-work on steel panels (‘Italian Quarter’, 2004); Misneach, a plinth-mounted bronze Equestrian Monument based on the Gough Memorial, remade to have a local girl in a tracksuit as the rider (Ballymun, 2010) and Casting Light, a durational architectural video projection onto the Ulster Bank in Cavan (2010/2011).
Good Works (2012/2013) saw a return to performance with this collaborative piece with choirs,(singing 9 ‘Art Hymns’ by the artist) readers and performers in Cavan Cathedral, subsequently performed at IMMA. In 2016, he installed his provocative Peep in the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris followed by solo exhibitions at The Lab, Dublin, Garter Lane, Waterford and as part of Disruptors (2019) in The Highlanes, Drogheda. He is currently working on a major pubic art project for Fingal County Council.
John Byrne lives and works in Dublin and was elected to Aosdána in March 2015.